The Great Big Beautiful Podcast, Episode 218: Evangeline Lilly
Talk to Evangeline Lilly for more than three minutes, and one thing becomes remarkably clear. She’s positively overflowing with stories she wants to tell, and Hollywood isn’t necessarily where she wants to tell them. So when you sit down with her for nearly an hour, as we do this week, the insight is profound. (Portions of our conversation from this episode appeared on SYFY Wire right here. Do check it out.)
Perhaps best known for her roles as Kate Austen (Lost), Tauriel (The Hobbit), and Hope Van Dyne/Wasp (Ant-Man and the Wasp), Lilly nevertheless sees herself as a writer with a fantastic day job. And the stories that mean the most to her are those that skew close to the brutal truths of life and don’t pull any punches. Stories that are true to life but still show a path toward redemption. Crack open the first book in her children’s series, The Squickerwonkers: The Prequel, and you’ll see what I mean.
Illustrated by WETA Workshop conceptual designer Johnny Fraser-Allen, the book is dark, clever, creative, and emotional. And there’s nary a “happily ever after” in sight. The book ends on an unquestionable downbeat of a cliffhanger that sets up the second book, Act I: The Demise of Selma the Spoiled (out this month from Quiet Cocoon and illustrated by Rodrigo Bastos Didier). Audiobooks—which Lilly narrates—for these and the next two books in the series (The Demise of Lorna the Lazy and The Demise of Andy the Arrogant) are also available now.
Fans of A Series of Unfortunate Events or Edward Gorey will quickly pick up on the mood Lilly is going for here. The Squickerwonkers books embrace and are honest about the flaws we all have. They shine a spotlight on human frailty and say, “It’s OK not to be perfect.” And that honesty is even more critical because the books are for children.
Young readers should be exposed to the world as it is. Presenting kids exclusively with teddy bears, rainbows, and happily-ever-afters does them a massive disservice. For many kids, these sweet stories simply don’t resonate with their reality. If we never tell our kids that it’s OK to fail or have flaws, then their unrealistic expectations—and anxieties—about the world and themselves balloon and quickly get out of control.
On this episode, we chat about The Squickerwonkers, living with this story since she was 14, acting versus writing, The Hobbit, and her place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.